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Analytical aspects of the debt problems of heavily indebted poor countries

Author

Listed:
  • Claessens, Stijn
  • Detragiache, Enrica
  • Kanbur, Ravi
  • Wickham, Peter

Abstract

A group of heavily indebted low-income countries (HIPCs), most in Sub-Saharan Africa, has continued to experience external debt problems. Because the HIPCs'economic characteristics and external imbalances are very different from those of middle-income countries, the analysis of debt problems and debt-reduction must be modified and complemented in important ways. Therefore, the authors revisit the methodological issues underlying debt sustainability analysis, as well as theory and empirical evidence on how large debts affect economic performance. Their main question is: Should consideration be given to more upfront debt reduction for HIPCs, over and above that provided under current mechanisms, or should debts continue to be refinanced, subject to conditionality? Ongoing refinancing with conditionality reduces moral hazard and gives countries an incentive to maintain good policies. However, this approach entails transition costs, can create uncertainty, may lack credibility, and can impede local ownership of reform programs. Upfront debt reduction can create moral hazard problems and may weaken the incentives for maintaining sound policy. There are theoretical arguments about why a high level of debt can impede investment and policy reform. Although empirical evidence concerning the hypothesis that HIPCs suffer significant adverse effects from their large debt overhang is inconclusive, evidence from middle-income countries suggests that debt reduction can benefit an economy if the policy environment is right. Whether there should be further debt reduction for specific heavily indebted low-income countries depends on the facts for each case and requires quantitative analysis of data about different forces at play in the countries involved.

Suggested Citation

  • Claessens, Stijn & Detragiache, Enrica & Kanbur, Ravi & Wickham, Peter, 1996. "Analytical aspects of the debt problems of heavily indebted poor countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1618, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1618
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Eaton, Jonathan & Fernandez, Raquel, 1995. "Sovereign debt," Handbook of International Economics,in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 3, pages 2031-2077 Elsevier.
    2. Claessens, Stijn & Oks, Daniel & van Wijnbergen, Sweder, 1993. "Interest rates, growth, and external debt : the macroeconomic impact of Mexico's Brady deal," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1147, The World Bank.
    3. Detragiache, Enrica, 1992. "The simple dynamics of a debt crisis," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 11(6), pages 552-566, December.
    4. Johnson, J.H. & Wasty, S.S., 1993. "Borrower Ownership of Adjustment Programs and the Political Economy of Reform," World Bank - Discussion Papers 199, World Bank.
    5. Borensztein, Eduardo, 1990. "Debt overhang, credit rationing and investment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 315-335, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dias, Daniel A. & Richmond, Christine & Wright, Mark L.J., 2014. "The stock of external sovereign debt: Can we take the data at ‘face value’?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 1-17.
    2. Mathias Hoffmann, 2003. "Cross-country evidence on the link between the level of infrastructure and capital inflows," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(5), pages 515-526.
    3. Rolf Maier, 2005. "External Debt and Pro-Poor Growth," Macroeconomics 0504031, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Birdsall, Nancy & Claessens, Stijn & Diwan, Ishac, 2002. "Will HIPC Matter? The Debt Game and Donor Behaviour in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 3297, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Alvarez-Plata, Patricia & Brück, Tilman, 2008. "External Debt in Post-Conflict Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 485-504, March.
    6. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4089 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Menbere Workie Tiruneh, 2004. "An Empirical Investigation Into the Determinants of External Indebtedness," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2004(3), pages 261-277.
    8. Ralf Hepp, 2005. "Can Debt Relief Buy Growth?," International Finance 0510003, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Ratha, Dilip, 2005. "Demand for World Bank lending," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 408-421, December.
    10. Muhammad Mustapha Abdullahi & Nor Aznin Bt Abu Bakar & Sallahuddin B. Hassan, 2016. "Debt Overhang versus Crowding Out Effects: Understanding the Impact of External Debts on Capital Formation in Theory," International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues, Econjournals, vol. 6(1), pages 271-278.
    11. Ralf Hepp, 2005. "Health Expenditures Under the HIPC Debt Initiative," International Finance 0510005, EconWPA.
    12. Marco Arnone & Luca Bandiera & Andrea Presbitero, 2005. "External Debt Sustainability: Theory and Empirical Evidence," International Finance 0512007, EconWPA.
    13. Robert Powell, 2003. "Debt Relief, Additionality, and Aid Allocation in Low Income Countries," IMF Working Papers 03/175, International Monetary Fund.
    14. Gul, Adnan, 2008. "Is external debt an effective way of bringing economic reforms?," MPRA Paper 10979, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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